"True sharpness comes without effort."Those who strive for academic success and are accustomed to achieving it are doubly vulnerable to a debilitating worldview that arises when our focus shifts from measuring what is valued (success) to valuing the measure itself (marks). Our identity and self worth become contingent on consistently getting things right.
– Li Mu Bai, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Now imagine what happens when you put someone like that on a team of stars working on a challenging problem. Or as is often the case, imagine what happens when every team member is to some extent like that. It becomes a zero-sum game for all of them. They have to be right, they have to defend their own ideas, and they aren't even sure why it matters to them so much.
It took fifteen years or so of fulltime employment for me to start to realize that my way of striving for excellence in all things actually means pushing hard as if my reputation is at stake in every moment, being continually concerned about how I am being evaluated, and just generally seeing each apparent misstep in thought and action as a mark deducted from my life score, a potential dip in my awesomeness stock, an event to be prevented at all costs. Somewhat exaggerated, but you get the picture.
On the other hand, I've also learned that when I'm at my best, it's because I've abandoned all concern over how my contributions will be evaluated. Instead, I'm caught up in the sheer delight of attacking a tough problem as part of a team, and giving it everything I have.
"Stop trying to hit me, and hit me."When we stop listening to that infernal internal commentary on our efforts—when we stop "trying" to be smart—we are free to be our best. Truly smart. Really sharp. To know ourselves and to be fully us, fully alive in community, contributing whatever we have, embracing every opportunity to learn, taking risks and living the adventure.
– Morpheus, The Matrix
True sharpness comes without effort.
"Life isn't as serious as my mind makes it out to be."If we view our preoccupation with our reputation as one more deficiency that puts our awesomeness at risk, we're still caught. We can't force our way out of the trap. Like an obsessive compulsive trying to obsess our way out of our obsession, our stuggles only tighten our bonds.
– Eckhart Tolle
The irony (as I carefully massage this text in the middle of the night) is not lost on me. Better to simply notice, laugh, and move on.